Monday, 24 September 2012

Sweet and fruity pork

It's funny where ideas for recipes come from. Sometimes you stumble upon a recipe online which looks so great that you just go out and buy all ingredients that are needed to make it. Some other time you have things at home you need to use up, and try to think of ways to combine them in a way that won't make a disgusting mess. Other times you run across something you know you really want to use in a recipe but have no idea how but go ahead and buy it anyways because you assume you will think of some way of using it up at some point. Today's recipe is a bit of a combination of all of those. And one more very important element, the financial factor. This is the very detailed (and probably very boring) story of how today's food came to be. And yes, it's another Crockpot recipe. I won't apologise for that anymore, what can I say, I heart my Crockpot. I know it will lose it's appeal at some point, but until then, I'm a Crockpot gal.

It all started a few weeks ago with some sort of fair at Parker's Piece. There was a petting zoo for kids, some local crafts and a huge tent with all sorts of food. Me and Best Friend went to have a nose around, obviously aiming for all the foodie goodies. And you know when you walk among a display of all sorts of food from baked goods to cheese, from meats to alcohol and from candy to all sorts of strange condiments that you won't walk away with all your hard earned money intact. And it's great when there are usually samples available of everything, so you have the chance to try things out ahead of buing. We took our time strolling down the lines of stalls craving pretty much anything they had on sale. We also strolled around having a look at the animals, and made a few new friends.

The most interesting thing I ended up buying was two jars of pachadi, an onion one and a garlic one. They are made by a company called Manjira from West Sussex. Wikipedia tells us that pachadi is "refers to a traditional South Indian side-dish. Broadly translated, it refers to food which has been pounded." On the jar, it says use as a chutney or like a pesto. Stir into pasta or rice. Basically it's an oil based paste with onion or garlic and some other flavouring stuff in it. I used the garlic one for stir frying prawns in, and that turned out delicious. But I wasn't sure what to do with the onion one.
Part two on the journey to get to today's recipe: I was browsing crockpot recipes online and came across this recipe for ribs and pineapple. Basically you just mix mustard and smoked paprika, smear that over the ribs, put the ribs in the slow cooker and put the pineapple on top and cook for eight hours. That was what I was going to cook, the only problem was that I was too lazy to head out to the big supermarket and the smaller grocery store downtown didn't have rack of ribs, so I had to skip the whole rib idea. However, they did have pork loin steaks on sale for half price, and as we are close to the end of the month and I'm trying to budget to make the last pennies go as far as possible, that sounded like a good deal to me. Pork ribs or pork loin, it's all pork anyways. I'm not a great connoisseur of meats, but I have learned that you can throw pretty much any piece of meat in the Crockpot. Slow cooking will make anything taste delicious. I'm pretty sure I could trow in a pair of my old shoes if I get really tight for money, cooking them slowly for eight hours should produce something perfectly edible. Although thankfully I'm not quite broke enough yet to test that idea.

When I came home from the grocery store and was going to start mixing the Dijon and smoked paprika, I thought why not add some of the onion pachadi to the Dijon. And I thought Tandoori curry would go better with the flavours of the pachadi than paprika. And I added a bit of warmth with a pinch of Cayenne. While I was preparing the pork I was snacking on a raisins. After adding the pineapple on top of the pork steaks I thought why not throw in a bit of raisins as well, as I have to use up the whole pack today anyways (otherwise I will just end up eating all the raisins in one go, I think I might have mentioned my raisin addition a few times before as well. I just can't let them be if I have any at home). So that was the long and winding road that gave rise to this particular recipe.

Sweet pork with fruit (serves 6):
1 kg pork loin steaks (6 steaks)
2 tbsp onion Pachadi 
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Tandoori curry poweder
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
432 g tin of pineapple in juice
1/2 cup raisins
1 tbsp cider vinegar

The howto:
Mix the onion with the mustard, curry and Cayenne. Coat the steaks with the paste, and place at the bottom of the Crockpot. Add the pineapple (including the juice), raisins and vinegar. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with a nice fresh green salad.

The verdict:
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of pork. Or to be more accurate, I wasn't a big fan of pork before the Crockpot. I have cooked pork a few times now, because they have been good value for money buys at the time. And I have liked it every time. The difference between pork and beef is that the fat on pork is easier to remove whereas in beef it's between the muscle fibres so you can't remove it. In case you wanted to that is. I'm still sticking to the bootcamp mantra "Fat doesn't make you fat, sugar makes you fat". Well of course that's fat in moderation, but still.

Fat or no fat (and I do think a thin little strip of that fat makes the meat all the more delicious), this pork turned out perfect. The slow cooking made it amazingly tender and I'm a huge fan of fruit with meat, here I love the sweetness from the pineapple juice. The mustard and onion pachadi gives the dish great flavour but it's subtile enough not to overpower the pineapple. Once again the Crockpot produced a winner. With about two minutes of prepping time, this is another recipe for anyone who is super busy and thinks they don't have time to cook. The only thing that could have been done better is that I think the dish would have been even better with fresh pineapple. Unfortunately I couldn't find any decent looking pineapples in the grocery store today. And I tend to pile on the tinned food, so it's good to try to use it all up every once in a while. I'm pretty sure I would survive a nuclear winter with the amount of food I stockpile in my kitchen. With such a tiny kitchen I should really try to avoid to buy anything beyond the groceries I know I will need that week, but I just can't live without having some basic stuff in my kitchen. But I do feel slightly relieved that I was able to use up the last of my Dijon for this dish, that's one less half filled jar of stuff in my fridge as well as one less tin of pineapple. Now if I could only figure out what to do with the ten packs of chickpeas I have accumulated in the recesses of my food cupboard... I guess next week will be hummus week!

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